Meet Kat Barrett

Dignified Pet Services presents 'People in the Neighborhood'

Kat Barrett’s love affair with horses began with riding lessons at age 9. “I loved it and I was good at it, so I kept riding,” she says. “My favorite movie as a kid was The Black Stallion, of course,” she laughs. “I wanted to be a veterinarian, but then once I realized I was not good at chemistry I decided to get my degree in education.”

Raised just outside of Boston, Kat spent her college freshman year at Marist in New York, where she was on the Equestrian team. She transferred to the University of New Mexico the following year, she played on the rugby team, and ultimately graduated from with a degree in Education with a focus on Childhood Development and Family Studies. She made lifelong friends in New Mexico, all of whom moved to Portland after graduation.

“I have been here in Portland for 14 years and I love it,” she smiles. “I love the weather and the people. Portland is a place where you can just be whoever you want to be. There is so much tolerance and acceptance of differences.”

An illness kept Kat from riding for nearly seven years, but in time, as part of her recovery, she began again. “I was looking for a horse to buy or lease when I met an old rodeo horse named ‘Bear.’ He was in a terrible place, his owner had stopped coming to see him, and the barn conditions were just deplorable. He was in rough shape, about 200 pounds under weight, as he was not being fed. He was dirty and covered with flies and facing euthanasia because ‘nobody wants an old horse.” Kat rescued him, helped him recover, and began to ride him. “Then I started giving lessons and never really had time to find another job,” she says.

Fast-forward three years. Kat is founder and executive director of Horse Sense Riding School in Damascus, Oregon. The mission is to “Help People, Helping Horses” by providing homes and jobs for unwanted horses. Through the school Kat has created an inclusive and affordable community for horsemanship. Serving a diverse population without regard to income, handicap or ability, the organization welcomes people of all ages with disabilities, at-risk youth and low-income families.

The riding school has grown to include 10 horses, each with his or her unique story, and four instructors who provide lessons to more than 70 students each week. With the three-year anniversary approaching, Kat says she believes everything happens for a reason.

“I am doing what I want to do. Had it not been for my illness I might not have had the choice to do this. I could have easily gone back to a desk job if it was about the money, but I decided to take a chance and do what I knew would make me happy.”

“I guess people would be surprised to know that I am actually an introvert,” she confesses. “I am very shy and like my quiet downtime at the end of each day to decompress. People see me always talking and teaching so they assume I’m outgoing. My other job is in advertising sales for Portland Family Magazine, so I am always out and about networking and making business connections. I love meeting people. I really challenge myself to have this dual lifestyle,” she says.

Hanging out with girlfriends is the perfect excuse to get dolled up. The shoe she points to as “so her” is a strappy black/gray heel with metal grommets which she says shows her tough, sexy and feminine side. Quite a departure from the barn boots she wears daily while caring for her beloved horse family. “I was always more rock and roll than country,” she adds with a laugh. “I was the teenager with the piercings way before anyone else had them.”

At home with her 9-year-old scrappy barn cat, Mocos, and Lab Terrier mix Peaches (adopted from OHS last year), Kat says her guilty pleasure is watching Housewives — any and all of them. “I do not have an actual TV so I watch on HuLu when I want to relax and decompress. I also love potato chips . . . anything salty. I usually need about an hour after I feed the horses to shut down a little, and that’s when I either watch online or read. I love to read.”  

Busy.  Dismissing shyness to mix it up professionally. Juggling two complex, important positions, Kat says, “I am very patient. I am like the ocean as I roll with the waves. I am passionate about what I do and am hardworking — I work 365 days a year. I am doing what I love, which is the best thing of all.”

About our Sponsor

Dignified Pet Services has served the Portland-area community for 13 years.  In addition to their core business of cremation and memorial services, Dignified co-sponsors the beloved annual Service of Remembrance at The Old Church in downtown Portland, as well as serving as wonderful supporters and friends of pets and those working in animal welfare.  Proprietors Michael, Randy and Avani live in Sherwood. 

Melinda Thompson is a freelance writer with a degree in Speech Communications and a coveted "Ducktorate" from the Walt Disney World Company. She has been featured in many local magazines and newspapers.  She lives in Vancouver USA with her husband, son and daughter.